One of the biggest uncomfortable and reoccurring memories that I have is of constantly being told to smile. It was not encouragement, it was a directive. I didn’t realize it at the time, I was too young when it started but today I know that it was a judgment of me. It was said “as a judgment”
I wonder why no one asked me why I was so unhappy. I bet my mother would say that she did ask. But what I remember is her asking why I didn’t smile more like this; “Why don’t you smile Darlene… you always look so sullen.” That was a rhetorical question. She didn’t want an answer. She was not concerned. She just didn’t want me to look “sullen”.
It is important to keep in mind however, that it doesn’t matter what her intention was. It was what I heard that matters because the message that I got from this “request” or “judgment” is the damage that I had to overcome. The message received was the damage. That is what I am talking about when I talk about overcoming damage and having to find out what the damage actually was in the first place.
I was extremely quiet. Perhaps “withdrawn” is a better word. Didn’t anyone think that there was a reason for that?
I heard the whispers about me. I heard the question “what is wrong with her?” many times. I don’t think that statement or question helped me become the happy child that they “wanted” me to be. It made it worse.
I overheard a conversation once between my mother and her sister (my Aunt) when I was somewhere around the age of 8 or 9. They were discussing my “sullenness” and my constant headaches. It was not so much that they were concerned about me that struck me, but they were trying to decide what was WRONG with me. I connected the word sullen with the smile directive and put all those messages together. My belief system had already begun to form that something was wrong with me and this conversation just added another layer to it. (I did not think about “why” I was so withdrawn. Only that they thought something was wrong with me)
I was getting worried about me too. Something was “wrong with me” and nobody knew what! My grandfather got sick and he had cancer and was going to die. Perhaps that is what was “wrong with me”. Maybe that is why I had so many headaches.
I had heard about kids who were “different” at school; kids who were born “not normal” and I worried that maybe THAT was what was wrong with me. I had to find out what was wrong with me so I could overcome it, fix it or hide it. If I didn’t figure it out, I would never be acceptable ~ never be good enough and never be loved!
I heard my Aunt say that perhaps my difficult birth and the fact that they Doctors used forceps caused more damage than anyone had considered. She said that perhaps the Doctors didn’t know there was damage because I was just a new born baby. The message that I got was that “what was wrong with me” may have been caused at birth. Can you see how this false message began to form a “belief” in my belief system?
Hearing this stuff made things far worse for me. Hearing their judgments increased my fear of being rejected and of being thrown away. Hearing this stuff confirmed that something WAS wrong with me, (just as I already suspected) and that I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough. If only I could just pretend to be happy and remember to smile. I couldn’t force myself to smile and that make me feel like a failure. My belief system was well on the way to cementing the self blame.
When I was in my twenties I overheard another conversation; I heard this same Aunt telling someone that I had brain damage from the difficult birthing experience. Now, the “perhaps” part got dumped out of that story. (because my mother was not part of the conversation). She could say this “behind my mother’s back” and because it was so “normal” and common for me to hear this kind of “backstabbing” I didn’t really think much of it. The way that I processed it was to feel sad that people were still wondering “what is wrong with me” and I was still wondering what was wrong with me too. I believed that I had “failed” to HIDE whatever was wrong with me.
I was labeled “sullen” but no one wanted to know why. No one was interested enough to dig into the where that may have come from. How does a child become so unhappy and withdrawn? I was content to believe that something was simply “wrong with me” and I was born with something wrong with me. Even I stopped questioning why I was so withdrawn and tried to accept that I was just different and likely defective.
Maybe they already knew why I was so unhappy, but pretending that our lives were “normal” was more important than doing something about it. OR maybe they were just as unhappy as children and they thought that all children are unhappy. Or maybe the accepted that life is really not a happy journey and why should MY childhood be any different than the one they had themselves? None of that matters though, because the damage from the message is what I had to face in order to overcome it. The damaging messages that now lived in my belief system had to be discovered at the roots and set back to the truth.
No wonder so many people question the meaning of life. The cycle goes round and round ~ passed from generation to generation. No wonder there is so much depression, anxiety, addiction and overall coping when most of the world is resistant to looking at the roots of where it began. It is easier to accept a mal functioning gene; I know.. I accepted that for many years too, but it was when I faced the real roots of my belief system that I found freedom. It was when I began to understand where these false beliefs originated; where and how my belief system formed, that I was able to see the lies and overcome those false beliefs.
There was nothing wrong with me. I was withdrawn because I was being abused; I had endured (and was still enduring) sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional /psychological abuse. I used the fact that I didn’t “smile enough” as one of the many answers to the question, “what is wrong with me” because that is what survivor mode is all about. We take the blame on ourselves because we are too young to know any different. Taking the blame (self blame) is part of the coping method. Imagine the fear and hopelessness if we blame the adults in charge of our care. I had to find out the things like this “smile example” that I used to confirmed the lies forming in my belief system in the first place.
Today I smile! My smile is natural; not something I have to think about and not something that I am EVER reminded to do. My smile is born out of freedom and wholeness and from living in the truth. My smile comes from inside of me and shines through. I like my smile. I FEEL my smile in my heart as though it is a live part of me.
Perhaps after many years of not smiling, I had a lot of catching up to do!
Please share your thoughts! I look forward to how hearing about how this article will impact people.
There is Freedom on the other side of Broken
related posts see highlighted words in colour also see: Manipulative and Controlling people and some control tactics
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